Types of early childhood services
There are many early childhood services available to families. Some organisations offer more than one of these services.
Long day care
Long day care is a centre-based service (sometimes called a child-care centre) that provides education and care for children aged from birth to age six. Some centres also provide education and care to school-age children out of school hours.
Occasional care is sessional occasional child care for babies, toddlers and children under school age. In South Australia, occasional care is generally offered through government preschools and in some child care centres.
Who can use occasional care
Occasional care can be used to participate in a range of activities including non-work and casual work commitments.
First priority of access is given to children:
- under the guardianship of the minister
- at risk of serious abuse and neglect
- in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
- with a parent whose disability or health condition affects their parenting
- with a disability and/or additional needs
- in socially isolated families.
Second priority is given to low-income families with an Australian government Pensioner Concession or Health Care Card.
Occasional care is generally provided in small day care centres and may also be available in some child care centres, preschools, family day care homes, nanny and babysitting services or through the in-home care program.
Search for SA government occasional care services by selecting occasional care as the ‘site type’.
Find occasional care providers on the Care for Kids (SA) website.
Family day care
Family day care is a child care service offering families affordable, personalised care by a qualified educator in a safe and nurturing home environment. Educators may care for up to seven children at any one time, with no more than four children under school age. The service is for children from birth to 12 years.
Local qualified family day care staff monitor and support educators in their home.
Some educators also offer overnight or weekend care. This flexibility may suit shift-workers or people who are on call.
Find family day care in your area on the Care for Kids (SA) website.
For more information, contact the family day care team:
The respite care program is a specialised disability care service for children and young people. The program is a provider for the Australian government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which provides funding for respite care for children and young people with a disability.
For more information about the respite care program, call 8343 6533.
In-home care is child care delivered in your family home. The program is for families who need this care the most. It focuses on high-quality early-childhood education and care, provided by qualified educators.
This program is only available if other types of child care are not suitable or available. This could be because:
- the child has an illness or disability, or lives with another child who has an illness or disability
- the parent or guardian has an illness or disability that affects their ability to care for the child
- the child lives in a rural or remote area
- the parent or guardian is a shift worker or works non-standard hours when no other approved childcare is available
- the parent or guardian is the primary carer for three or more children.
Out of school hours care (OSHC)
This service is available to school-aged children:
- before and/or after school
- usually on pupil-free days during the school term
- sometimes during school holidays.
More about out of school hours care.
Parenting groups, playgroups and play centres
These options offer parents with babies and toddlers the opportunity to meet regularly with other parents, share experiences and build a support network. Generally parents bring their children along to these groups and participate in play-based learning that supports the child's growth and development.
Find out more about about parenting, playgroups and play centres.
Preschool and kindergarten
Preschools are sometimes called kindergartens. They may be run by government, private or community providers.
Children who will be starting school within the next year (4-5 year-olds) can attend preschool. Some three-year-olds are also eligible to attend. For details see preschools and kindergartens.
Children usually attend up to four sessions per week for up to four terms.
Preschools may be:
- a stand alone preschool centre
- co-located with a school
- co-located with another child care service.
Integrated early childhood services
Integrated early childhood services offer a combination of two or more services. The services vary from centre to centre and may include child care, playgroup, preschool, early education and learning, early development, health services and family support services.
Children's Centres for Early Childhood Development and Parenting offer a mix of education, health and family services and are supported by the state government. Each centre may offer a slightly different mix of services depending on the needs of the community.
Find an integrated centre near you or read more about Children's Centres for Early Childhood Development and Parenting.
Learning together at home program
Learning together at home is a home visiting program which supports families and guides parents in helping their children learn and develop through play. The program also gives advice to families about other early childhood services.
Find out more about learning together at home.
On this site
- Find a school or preschool - Department for Education
- Tips, advice and family fact sheets - Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority
- Parenting Easy Guides (PEGs) - Parenting SA
- My Child website
- Child care access
- Join or start a playgroup